2020 is really just going from one difficult situation to another, isn’t it? Many events cancelled, the potential of the second wave of Coronavirus on the horizon. There has been odd weather, protests and political tom foolery, which has all contributed to a year like no other for everyone globally. This thankfully hasn’t stopped creativity and heartfelt actions taking place. We have seen people celebrating key workers, joining in unity to support Black Lives Matter and so many acts of kindness that it has made individuals realise that humans are capable of great things if we stop working against each other.
This year certainly hasn’t stopped the artist Banksy from making his mark. No matter what you think of this artist, he has a message which he is not afraid show loudly and publicly. This year he has been exceptional at showing his cause, which is peaking in an exhibition in Rome.
During May, Banksy arranged to have on of his pieces displayed at Southampton General Hospital, in support of the ongoing pressures put on the NHS during the first wave of COVID. The painting depicts a young boy kneeling on the floor wearing dungarees. He has put his Batman and Spiderman toys in a nearby bin, and is favouring playing with an NHS nurse doll, who is positioned like a superhero.
The piece is one metre square on canvas and was hung with collaboration of the hospital managers in the foyer near the emergency department.
In June, Banksy’s twitter account showed support for Black Lives Matter stating: –
At first, I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine.
People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs.
This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.
Along with this statement a painting of a vigil candle burning the US flag.
July brought us the playful side of Banksy, with graffiti turning up on London Underground trains. Rats in various positions with facemasks and anti-bacterial gel were seen in carriages, and the artist name scrawled in running paint. The piece called “If you don’t mask, you don’t get”, with a video added to you tube with the phrase “I Get Lockdown” on a station wall, revealing the words “But I get up again” as the train doors close. This artwork was set to inspire those to wear facemasks and keep their spirits high. The work was removed a few days later in accordance to TfL’s graffiti policy (I bet they will be regretting that soon enough).
August, the news broke that Banksy had funded a rescue boat to help migrants. Banksy contacted Pia Klemp, the former captain of several NGO boats, back in September 2019 and initially she thought it was a joke as the email read: –
Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass, I am an artist from the UK, and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.
From here a 31-metre motor yacht was obtained, which is remarkably smaller than the other vessels in the NGO fleet, but also much faster. The boat has been painted pink, with a girl wearing a life jacket, holding a heart shaped life saver as a balloon.
Klemp feels that Banksy chose her to contact as they have similar views around how saving people isn’t a solely a humanitarian act, but also is a fight against fascism. Banksy will remain a financial investor in the boat, leaving the rescue missions to crews made of activists with a quote of Klemp saying “Banksy won’t pretend that he knows better than us how to run a ship, and we won’t pretend to be artists”.
This leads to September, and a new exhibition opened in Rome on the 8th. This exhibition will run until April 2021 and is called “Banksy – A Visual Protest”. This exhibition has been designed to celebrate the influential street artists early years. As if it isn’t exciting enough to see Banksy’s work in the flesh (believe me I know, I saw a very similar exhibition in Amsterdam a few years ago), this is being held in the Chiostro del Bramante (Cloisters of Bramante).
Visitors will be able to see the early works which have contributed to Banksy being a household name, and one of the most recognised contemporary artists such as “Love is in the Air”, “Toxic Mary” and “HMV”. They will be able to learn about his different techniques ranging from the stencil and spray paint to sculpture and canvas paintings.
The name of the exhibition attributes to Banksy style of having a political message hidden behind a tongue in cheek piece. Viewers will see more that 100 pieces when visiting this exhibition.
Visitors will also be in for an extra treat, as they will be able to view “The Sibyls” a fresco painted by Raphael in 1515 from a first-floor window within Chiostro del Bramante. The fresco has recently been restored in celebration of its 500th anniversary and will give a unique view of two contemporary artists from different eras side by side.
If you want to find out more about this exciting exhibition, you can find details of it here.